Potential of oil palm biomass not fully tapped for export


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia needs to tap the full potential of oil palm biomass like empty fruit bunches (EFB), palm fibre, palm kernel shells and palm oil mill effluent (POME) which can be developed into a renewable source of energy as well as high-income generating green products for export, said Plantation Industries and Commodities secretary-general Datuk Wira Ismail Salleh.

Of the total output from the oil palm tree, about 10% is palm oil while 90% is in the form of oil palm biomass which has yet to be fully exploited.

Last year, the local oil palm sector generated an estimated 80 million tonnes of biomass, Ismail said at the opening of the two-day Second International Conference on Oil Palm Biomass here yesterday.

Currently, palm shells and fibres are already being used to generate electrity in many palm oil mills nationwide.

Ismail said the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) was also conducting extensive research and development in developing second generation biofuels from oil palm as a potential source of renewable energy.

Of the total 57.4 million tonnes of POME by the oil palm industry last year, an estimated 15 billion cu m of biogas can be generated annually.

“The biogas can be used to generate electricity for the national grid and be used in palm oil mills,” Ismail said, adding that EFB could be used as mulching for the plantation industry.

“The sector is encouraged to use biomass fertiliser as one of the options to reduce cost of production. Fertiliser accounts for over 50% of the total cost,” he said.

Ismail noted that oil palm biomass also offered potential use in the wood based and furniture industry given the depleting timber resources.

It could also be used in the manufacturing of plywood, particle board, lumber, veneer and medium density fibre board.

Ismail said the Government was also concerned about allegations that rainforests had been converted into oil palm plantations in the country.

“Malaysia’s oil palm planted areas still remain within the allotted area of six million hectares for agriculture and tree plantations under the Third National Agricultural Plan (2000 to 2010). The overall forested tree cover exceeds 80% of the 32.86 million ha land area in Malaysia,” he said.

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